Tony Lynes 1929-2014

Tony sadly died after being hit by a car in Herne Hill on 12 October 2014. This site is maintained by his family.

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Second Memorial Lecture, 31st October 2017: “Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate”

Delivered by Rachel Reeves MP on 31st October 2017 at William Booth College, Champion Park, London


Good afternoon everyone.

I am honoured to be here today to give the second Tony Lynes Memorial Lecture on the subject of loneliness.

My thanks to the Southwark Pensioners Centre who have organised this event and to all of you for coming along today in honour of Tony Lynes.

I wasn’t lucky enough to know Tony but I do know his daughter Hannah Lynes who was the women’s officer at my university and our paths crossed again at an NCT class.

And I was delighted to be invited to give the second Tony Lynes Memorial Lecture in honour of Hannah’s father. Someone much revered for his commitment to others, particularly on the rights of women.

I wanted to begin by showing you part of, what I’m sure you’ll agree is a moving film – “The Age of Loneliness”

Something from that footage that stands out for me – was the woman who said that “you can only feel lonely, when you are lonely.”

For me, this brought to mind, the ways in which our bodies send us warning signs when certain needs are not being met.

Like hunger is nature’s way of telling us that we need food.

Thirst warns us to find water and drink.

Pain signals that our body is sick or damaged and needs repair.

Loneliness is also a warning sign.

But I’m not sure any of us would want to completely eradicate loneliness.

Because if we never felt loneliness, that need for human interaction – then we wouldn’t know what it felt like to feel connected again.

But for too many, loneliness is a feeling that never quite seems to go away.

Loneliness is today’s silent epidemic

it is far too chronic and acute – for far too many.

Loneliness can affect us all in different ways.

You can be surrounded by loved ones but still feel lonely

or you might be thousands of miles away from home and feel it too.

Statistics suggest 80% of people have experienced loneliness.

The harm loneliness does to our nation’s health is both physical and mental. gran

Just the other week Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chief of the Royal College of GPs said that loneliness can be as bad for your health as a chronic long-term condition.

She also talked in context of this about why it is vital to give doctors across the country the funding they need.

We can’t expect to ask our GPs to do more to tackle loneliness if we’re not going to resource it.

As was said in the film, loneliness could be killing us but we are not talking about it.

One person did talk about it though.

My friend and colleague Jo Cox

For Jo, however big and complex a problem was, there was always a solution.

And loneliness is a big and complex problem.

So today I’ll follow Jo’s lead.

And it is in my role, carrying on her legacy as part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness that I am speaking to you today.

Tony Lynes

But first let me say a little more about Tony.

Tony Lynes, as I’m sure most of you will know, like my friend Jo, was a doer.

And also similarly to Jo, his political instincts were many years ahead of his time.

I know Tony was very involved with the Southwark Pensioners group – he set up various groups for older people, including an “explorers” group which organises regular outings, a choir and a recorder group. (I’m sure they play it better than my little ones!)

Tony’s work in this community in his later years might not necessarily be interpreted as doing something to tackle loneliness but in effect that is what it was. It was action to not only connect – but re-connect people together.

But of course as you will know, Tony is most revered for his work combating child poverty as part of the Child Poverty Action Group. And I wanted to allude to that today.

Tony Lynes was rather unique for his day in working almost exclusively for some brilliant Labour women. One of the reasons I know about them is when researching for my book “Alice in Westminster”, and for my forthcoming book “Women in Westminster” where I focus on those women MPs whose achievements have been overlooked by history.

I read about how Tony was a civil service adviser to Peggy Herbison (minister of pensions and national insurance).

Apparently he was told that he wasn’t allowed to ask to speak to her; she had to invite him to speak instead!

So, Tony would resort to ringing her at home and asking her to invite him to speak.

Staff of MPs today don’t realise how easy they have it!

While working for Peggy, Tony spent a year writing a memo on family allowances which was the beginnings of monumental Labour reforms in the area of family and child poverty.

Tony was subsequently an advisor to one of the strongest women MPs of our time in what was a hugely male dominated environment.

I speak of course of Barbara Castle.

Like my friend Jo, Barbara was an outspoken, driven and principled Yorkshire lass –

And like Jo, she also happened to be a Labour MP too.

Together Tony and Barbara pioneered the state earnings-related pension scheme and helped pilot the Child Benefit Bill – a non-means tested, universal payment for every child for the first time.

Tony’s work in these areas were of course the precursors to the tax credit system, and other supplementary benefits brought in under subsequent Labour governments.

Changes that lifted millions out of poverty.

And issues I have done my best to champion while representing my constituency of Leeds West and in my time in the shadow Treasury team and on the Treasury Select Committee.

Tony was ahead of his time on his proposals to link pensions to earnings and in terms of our thinking on the economy – on both the left and the right

So I’m sure you’ll agree that his legacy lives strong today.

Commission and loneliness

As I’ve alluded to already, Jo Cox was just as committed to the causes she championed.

Jo came into Parliament in 2015, wanting to do something about loneliness.

For her it was personal. She had suffered loneliness at university, like many of us do. She’d seen it out and about with her grandad who was a postman, when she accompanied him at work.

She saw that for too many, her grandad was often their only interaction that day.

Just weeks into her time as an MP, she recruited Seema Kennedy the MP for South Ribble and another of the new 2015 intake to set up a cross party commission on loneliness with 13 organisations, ranging from Age UK, to the Coop, Refugee Action and British Red Cross.

Jo was essentially a practical person whose natural instincts were to work cross party.

As she said in her maiden speech we have far More in Common than that which divides us.

When Jo was so cruelly taken from us, Seema recruited me to join her as co-chair of the commission and together continue Jo’s legacy.

Because of course Loneliness is one of those rare issues in public discourse that unites myself with my Tory colleagues!

Because we know we have to act.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the UK is the loneliness capital of Europe.

Perhaps Beveridge would recognise it today, alongside poverty – as the sixth giant social evil.

Jo said that “young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate” and the footage you saw in that film speaks to that.

For some the phases of loneliness are fleeting.

For others, they are chronic and debilitating, they can last for years.

Triggered often by moments of transition: the birth of a child, retirement, relationship breakdown, bereavement, seeking asylum, starting university, changing schools, moving home.

Older people

Loneliness is not just an older person’s issue, although too many older people in the UK do feel lonely and invisible between four walls.

Age UK research showed that 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely, and that half a million people over 60 usually spend every day alone.

Our survey we commissioned with Gransnet for our age spotlight in March found that:

56% of those who said they are lonely have never spoken about their loneliness to anyone

71% say that their friends and family would be astonished to hear that they feel this way.

93% of Gransnet users admit it is possible to feel lonely even when you have a partner or family, with 82% agreeing that talking about feelings of loneliness is much easier when they are online and anonymous.

Loneliness surrounds all of us, from the quiet kid in class to the high-powered executive, from the new mum to the family carer, hiding in plain sight.

It is not simply someone else’s problem.

For our spotlight on men, our partners RVS and Independent Age found that 26 is the age that men think they had the largest group of friends and 38 when they had the smallest.

Of the men that had experienced or are experiencing loneliness the average age to feel most lonely was 35.

I’m sure you’re as surprised as I was by those findings.

The Loneliness Commission has shone a spotlight on a range of groups suffering loneliness – whether it’s the refugee unable to communicate effectively because of a lack of english language provision or the carer who simply doesn’t have the means or the time to leave the house.

For a long time, we saw permanently positive mental health as the norm and mental illness as an aberration. It turned out that that wasn’t true.

And the same applies to loneliness. It may come and go, but it comes to us all. Everyone feels disconnected sometimes, at different stages of our lives.

And Loneliness does not just affect the lonely:

  • Figures suggest that it damages our economy to the tune of £32bn per annum, costing employers alone £2.5bn a year.
  • Lonely people tend to visit GPs more often, stay longer when in hospital and find it harder to cope and heal, adding even more to pressures on the health service.
  • A Public Health England tool found that tackling loneliness through volunteering and social activities – every £1 invested results in an estimated saving to society of £1.26

Community solutions

For Beveridge if he were indeed alive today, perhaps alongside the need for bread and health he would add the need for attachment and connection.

And I’m sure he would follow up on his belief in voluntary action and the importance of giving more power to people.

Like our kind hosts today – the Southwark pensioners who bring people together through a range of activities – a group run by older people, rather than for older people.

It was said that this was the kind of organisation of which Tony thoroughly approved.

And the Southwark Explorers –  founded by Tony himself. Who take large groups of mainly over 50’s to places in the UK and abroad.

Because of course people need to have control over their own lives.

And they need to own their solutions too.

Chronic loneliness will never be overcome if we are relying on outsiders to swoop in, spend five minutes talking to someone before they leave again.

The solutions to loneliness have to come from the communities who experience it firsthand.

Here’s just a few examples I’ve come across over the past year;

  • In Leeds, not far from my constituency, the Robin Lane Health and Wellbeing Centre provides wellbeing activities and a community cafe
  • Motorbikers who take people, including older people out on their bikes for the day in Worcester
  • Men’s Sheds – where men come together for craft and companionship.
  • And through their work as members of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, The Red Cross are working with the Co-op on “Community Connectors”……Training volunteers to reconnect isolated people back into their community;

The work involves anything, whether it’s accompanying someone to a community chess club or if it’s helping them go out and do their shopping.

Because it’s not enough to simply tell someone to “get out more” – for many the barriers are far too complex.

And in my own constituency in Leeds, Bramley Lawn has been transformed from a struggling day centre into a thriving centre running support for people with Dementia, and bringing together young and old in a wide range of activities.


But every part of society has a role to play.

There’s business- which as thriving pillars in our communities can bring about positive action not only through their staff and customers – but in their practices.

And so we want to call on businesses in the marketplace to consider and mitigate the antisocial effects of their practices – including for instance, automation.

For too many automated services not only cause anxiety – but disconnection too.

If a supermarket is to move predominantly to self-service checkouts, it could introduce a slow lane alongside them as well.

Social media

And then there’s the unplanned and often unseen effects of the digital age we now live in.

Social media while a positive force for many, can be all-too-often for others, a stark reminder of our own disconnect.

Social policy

While in social policy, emphasis could be put not just on financial planning for retirement, as is already the case, but on social planning for it too.

  • A National Retirement Service could be created to enable older people to volunteer, rather than feeling like they no longer have a place in society, unable to keep up with the pace of change.
  • We have Teach First for recent graduates why not have “Teach Later” for older people who have so much to offer to our classrooms.

The opportunities are endless


And I’d like also to address the issue of stigma.

It is in society’s interests for us to reconnect – but it is also in our interests to talk and communicate our feelings more.

Some of us even struggle to tell our loved ones how we feel.

Our survey with gransnet showed that the vast majority would rather communicate feelings of loneliness online – rather than to their family or friends.

It might be the quintessentially British thing to do

But it also means too many suffer in silence.

I could finish this by making large scale policy recommendations

But Jo thought that solving the issue of loneliness started with each of us.

That’s why we use the slogans of

#HappyToChat and #StartAConversation.

You would have seen the badges – please do pick one up – only the other day someone tweeted about how after wearing the badge, a man on a bus approached her for a chat. He hadn’t spoken to anyone in days.

We’ve all been there – whether we’re out walking the dog or commenting on the weather. It seems that too often we seek permission, or we need some kind of excuse to talk to people who pass us by on the street.

It’s sad to me that we still need permission to interact with people who we don’t know. We need to be thinking more about how we break down these societal rules and codes.

But it’s not just about conversations. The future needs to be about us all playing a role – whether it’s civil society, business, politicians – they need to be factoring loneliness, isolation and connectedness into their everyday work.

We need communities who look out for one another. That’s why I brought together stakeholders working on loneliness in my constituency a few months ago.

Sometimes it just takes a conversation to get different groups seeing social isolation and loneliness in a new way.

We need to build a more connected society because loneliness can affect anyone at any stage of their life.

So let me close by addressing some of the things that I believe we need.

Why not have:

Social skills training for children – equipping children to reconnect with each other and the world around them

And of course Social prescribing. As the Royal College of GP’s said the other week, loneliness should not be disregarded as a “minor problem”.

One thing people have said to me during my time co-chairing the commission is that GPs are seeing patients book appointments often because they are lonely.

Our GPs need to be supported to give not just clinical prescriptions but social prescriptions too. A social proscription can be anything – from getting them to join their local choir to getting them to join their local pensioners group.

But we need the infrastructure to support it. We need support systems in place so acutely isolated people can be accompanied to such groups. Handing them a prescription they can simply throw in the bin is not enough.

And then there’s planning:

Local planners could work to ensure social spaces are designed to meet the needs of the communities they service

In the same way that planners have to abide with health and safety legislation –

Could they not also ensure that they mitigate against any structural developments that segregate people too.

So there you have it.

I hope that the future of loneliness will consist of things we can barely conceive of at this present time – things we can only dream of at the moment.

These networks and connections never really went away.

We just need to work – each and every one of us to reconnect.

We know that people who are lonely are more likely to die early. So we need to know what works in tackling it. And now I’d really like to hear some of your thoughts on what you think could be the solutions.

Thank you once again for having me here today to honour a great man and stalwart of the Labour movement.

I turn now back to Peter who is going to chair a discussion.

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First Tony Lynes Annual Memorial Lecture

The first Annual Memorial Lecture in honour of Tony was held on 7th October 2015 at William Booth College, Denmark Hill.

The speaker was Paul Flynn MP, on the topic of ‘Abolishing sin’.

With thanks to Mayor Dora Dixon-Fyle for introducing the event and Councillor Peter John for chairing.

Music was provided by the Recorder group led by Sue Klein and the Welcome Singers, conducted by Sue Heath-Downey.

The introduction, lecture and short Q&A can be heard here:

A gallery of images can be viewed here:

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Event to celebrate the life of Tony Lynes, 23rd October 2014

An event celebrating his life was held on Thursday 23rd October, at the Conway Hall. A recording of the event can be found below:

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Southwark pensioners explore local history

Twenty-six people, including Southwark’s distinguished historian Stephen Humphrey and local pensioner activists Tony and Sally Lynes, attended a meeting held on 4th September 2013 to discuss the formation of a Local History group at Southwark Pensioners Centre in south-east London. The idea was welcomed by all those present – so we’re going ahead with fortnightly open meetings at the Centre on Tuesday afternoons, starting on Tuesday 15th October at 2 p.m.

At that meeting, we’ll share information about our own or our families’ connections with Southwark, whether recent or in the distant past, the changes we have seen, and the things we would like to know more about. We will also begin to plan our programme for the year.

At the second meeting, on Tuesday 29th October, Stephen Humphrey will talk about his research into the history of the Elephant and Castle area and his recently published book on the subject. In subsequent meetings he will advise on ways in which, individually or in small groups, we can explore our history, through local archives, maps, prints, published sources, personal reminiscences and photographs.

Future meetings will include talks by Stephen and others, as well as reports by members of the group on their own explorations.

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Below you will find Tony Lynes’s comments, views and research findings on the following subjects:

Music: public library charges illegal?  (11.9.13)

Single-tier pension – but not for today’s pensioners?  (24.2.13)

Child benefit – a better way of sharing the cost.  (4.1.11)

Adult education.  (20.6.10)

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Music: public library charges illegal?

Public library charges for lending printed music

This article presents the results, up to September 2013, of ongoing research by Tony Lynes on behalf of Making Music.  It summarises the legislation relating to local authorities’ duty to provide a music lending service and their power to charge borrowers for this service; shows how this power is used (or exceeded) by 31 local authorities for which information was obtained; compares the widely diverging charges made for a typical loan of vocal scores; and concludes that at least a substantial minority of library authorities are making illegal charges and that there is a strong case for amending the law.

Library authorities’ duty to provide a music lending service

The duties of public library authorities and their powers to impose charges are to be found in the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Library Charges (England and Wales) Regulations 1991.  Section 7(1) of the Act requires every library authority to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof”.  While the authority may make facilities for borrowing “books and other materials” available to anybody, it is obliged to do so only for persons living, working or studying full-time within the local area (described below as “local borrowers”).  Precisely who or what is a local borrower may, however, be open to question if the materials are to be loaned not to an individual but to a choir or other group, some of whose members are local people and others not.

Section 7(2) of the Act requires a library authority, in fulfilling its duty under section 7(1), to

“have regard to the desirability . . . of securing, by the keeping of adequate stocks, by arrangements with other library authorities, and by any other appropriate means, that facilities are available for the borrowing of, or reference to, books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials, sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children.”

The term “books and other printed matter” undoubtedly includes vocal and instrumental scores.  A library authority, therefore, must at least “have regard to the desirability” of lending scores in adequate numbers to local borrowers, whether from its own stocks or by means of inter-library loans

The power to impose charges

Section 8 of the Act, headed “Restriction on charges for library facilities”, gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations authorising charges for facilities specified in the regulations, but not for the loan of “written material” to local borrowers.  “Written material”, for this purpose, includes “any book, journal, pamphlet or other similar article”.  Whether a single sheet of music is a “pamphlet or other similar article” may be debatable, but a bound vocal or orchestral score is certainly a book and therefore covered by this definition.

While loan charges to local borrowers for bound volumes and probably also for single sheet scores are unlawful, section 8(3) concludes:

“ . . . this subsection shall not prevent any regulations under this section from authorising the making of charges in respect of the use of any facility for the reservation of written materials or in respect of borrowed materials which are returned late or in a damaged condition.”

Accordingly, regulation 3(2)(b) of the 1991 Library Charges (England and Wales) Regulations provides that a library authority may make a charge

“ . . . for reserving for any person library material or library apparatus, whether that material or apparatus is for the time being held by the relevant authority or needs to be obtained from elsewhere and whether for the purpose of lending the material or apparatus to that person or making it available for his use on library premises, and for notifying that person that that material or apparatus has become available or is not available for borrowing or use by him.”

Since a loan to a local borrower can legally be subject to a reservation charge but not to a loan charge, it is important that there should be a clear distinction between the two.  If the material is both required and available immediately, the need for reservation presumably does not arise and no reservation charge should be made.  Most requests for the loan of sets of vocal or instrumental scores, however, are made in advance – and, even if they are not, the library will probably need time to explore the possibility of an inter-library loan.  There will, therefore, be a period during which the scores can be said to be “reserved”, possibly justifying a reservation charge.  Such a charge can reasonably take into account the number of items (e.g., as shown below, Portsmouth charges a “request fee” of £15 per 40 vocal scores, and Southwark charges 20p per item with a minimum charge of £2); but a charge based on the duration of the loan (e.g., Kent charges £2 or £4 per month for a loan of vocal scores, depending on the length of the work, and Herts charges £2 per month for 10 vocal scores or a packaged set) is clearly a loan charge, not a reservation charge, and, if applied to a local borrower, is therefore illegal.

Regulation 4 leaves the amount of any permitted charge to be fixed at the discretion of the authority.  It also allows the authority, instead of making a charge for each use of the library facilities, to “charge an annual subscription or a deposit in respect of all or some of such facilities”.  The legality of the practice adopted by some authorities of requiring payment of both a loan charge and an annual subscription is doubtful – but, more importantly, neither type of charge is permissible if the borrower is a local resident, worker or student.

Display of charges

Whatever system of charges is adopted, whether for music or other materials, regulation 5 (“Display of charges”) should be noted:

“A relevant authority which makes a charge in accordance with regulation 3 shall display in a conspicuous place within each library premises occupied by the relevant authority a notice which is easily readable specifying the library facilities made available by the authority for which it makes a charge and, in the case of each such facility, the amount of the charge or the basis on which the charge will be calculated.”

What happens in practice: charges for borrowing vocal score sets

The table below summarises information about charges made by 31 local authorities for loans of sets of vocal scores (ILL = inter-library loan).  The selection of these authorities was largely haphazard, depending on access to email addresses and websites.  Some of the information may be incomplete or out of date, especially where obtained from websites.

Library authority Charging criteria Charges
Blackburn with Darwen Number of scores; duration of loan;  ILL charge Up to 10 scores £6; 11-15 £10; 16 or more £15, for 12 weeks.  ILL reservation & admin. fees £2.50.
Brighton & Hove Duration of loan £25 per month ((£15 for groups local to the City).
Cheshire East Number of scores 1-20 £15; 21-40 £27; 41-60 £40; each additional £1.20.
City of London Number of scores £5 per 50 scores.
Cornwall Number of scores; duration of loan £1 per score for 6 months.
Cumbria Number of scores; duration of loan; ILL charge £1.50 per score (ILLs £2 per score) for 6 months.
Derbyshire Annual subscription (size of group)OR pay-as-you-go – number of scores;duration of loan Up to 20 members £20; 21-50 £50; 51-100 £100; 101+ £200; professionals £500.£10 per 12 scores for 13 weeks


Essex Annual subscription; number of scores; duration of loan Subscription £15 (£40 for group outside Essex).  £1.50 per score (£10 for set of sheets) for 12 weeks.
Hampshire Annual subscription; number of scores Subscription £10.  £7.50 per 20 scores (for maximum 9 months).
Herts. Number of scores; duration of loan; ILL charge £2 per month for 10 scores or packaged set, plus £7 minimum charge for ILL.
Kent Length of work; duration of loan; ILL charge 5 minutes or more £4 per month; less than 5 minutes £2 per month (out of Kent groups £10/£5).  ILL charge £4.
Lancashire Number of scores £10 per 40 scores.
Lincolnshire Annual subscription + ILL chargeOR reservation fee + ILL charge Subscription £25.  ILL charge £4.Reservation 50p per item (25p on-line).  ILL charge £4.
Liverpool Annual subscription (+ delivery charge) Subscription £28 (for group outside Liverpool £58).
Manchester Number of scores; duration of loan Large scores 25p per score for 28 days;  small scores 12p per score for 28 days (non-Manchester groups 50p/25p).
Middlesbrough Number of scores; delivery charge £10 per 20 scores; delivery £5.
Nottingham Annual subscription based on size of group + ILL charge Up to 30 members £25; 31-60 £50; 61-90 £75; 91+ £100; professionals £300.  ILL charge £5.
Oldham Annual subscription; charge per set Subscription £18; charge per set £5.
Portsmouth Number of scores £15 per 40 scores.
Richmond upon Thames Number of scores, + charge for items not in stock £15 for 25 scores; charge for items not in stock.
Rochdale ILL charge No charge for sets in stock; £8 per set for ILL request + actual ILL charge if excessive.
Somerset Number of scores £4 per 5 scores.
Southampton Number of scores £15 per 40 scores.
Southwark Number of scores; reservation charge 20p per score (minimum £2).
Suffolk Annual subscription; duration of loan; ILL charge Subscription £1.75 per member, minimum £10.50 (non-Suffolk group £3.50 per member, minimum £35).  Charge per set £4.75 (sets in folders £1.55) per 12 weeks.  ILL charge £10 (£20 if supplied by more than 1 library).
Surrey Annual subscription; number of scores; duration of loan; reservation and ILL fees Subscription, Surrey & W Sussex groups £25, others £32.  Loans, per month, per set (20): to Surrey & W Sussex groups £5 (£4 per packaged vocal set), to others £7 (£6 per packaged set).  Reservation £3 per set.  ILL: £5 per application to other libraries.
Trafford Number of scores 1-40 scores £25; 41-80 £30; 81-120 £35; over 120 £40.
Wandsworth Number of scores Up to 40 scores £15.20; over 40 £21.50 (more than one charge if more than 1 ILL request involved).
Warwickshire Number of scores £1 per score; £5 per part-song set (around 15-40 copies).
Westminster No charge No charge
Yorkshire Number of scores; administration charge; postage Yorkshire group: vocal scores £1.60 each; small scores £1 each; part songs £1.50 per wallet (c. 10-12 copies).  Admin. charge £5.Non-Yorkshire group: vocal scores £2.50 each; small £1.50; part songs £5 per wallet.  Admin. charge £10.

Two obvious facts are shown by the table.  First, nearly every authority makes a charge of some kind (including annual subscription), for loans, reservations or both, the exceptions being Westminster which makes no charge and Rochdale  which does not charge for items held in stock.  Secondly, with the exception of Portsmouth and Southampton, no two of these authorities have the same system of charges.  Liverpool and Nottingham have an annual subscription and make no additional charge for loans (apart from delivery and inter-library loan charges).  Derbyshire and Lincolnshire have an annual subscription but offer borrowers the option of paying for each loan.  Essex, Hampshire, Oldham, Suffolk and Surrey have an annual subscription but also charge for each loan.

Most of the authorities (21 out of 31) make charges which take into account the number of scores borrowed.  Eleven take into account the duration of the loan, and 8 of these take into account both the number of scores and duration.  Many authorities make smaller charges for sets of part songs; Kent is unusual in defining these by length of performance (less than 5 minutes).

An indication of the variation in levels of charges can be obtained by comparing the charges made by different authorities for similar loans.  For instance, the charges made by a number of authorities for lending 40 vocal scores of a major choral work for three months to a local borrower, excluding authorities with an annual subscription and excluding any additional charge for ILLs, are as follows:

Blackburn with Darwen                             £15.00

Brighton & Hove                                             45.00

Cheshire East                                                   27.00

City of London                                                    5.00

Cornwall                                                             40.00

Cumbria                                                              60.00

Herts.                                                                   24.00

Kent                                                                       12.00

Lancashire                                                            10.00

Manchester                                                           30.00

Middlesbrough                                                      25.00

Portsmouth                                                              15.00

Richmond upon Thames                                       30.00

Rochdale                                                                      8.00 or free

Somerset                                                                     32.00

Southampton                                                              15.00

Southwark                                                                     8.00

Trafford                                                                        25.00

Wandsworth                                                                 15.20

Warwickshire                                                               40.00

Westminster                                                                    0.00

Yorkshire                                                                        69.00

It seems unlikely that most of the differences can be justified on any rational grounds; and, as explained above, the eleven authorities whose charges to local borrowers take into account the duration of the loan appear to be acting unlawfully.

Should the law be amended?

The present situation is clearly unsatisfactory.  At least a substantial minority of library authorities are making loan charges to local borrowers, contrary to the provisions of the 1964 Act.  It is arguable that, in spite of this, the present system is working and therefore does not need to be fixed, but there are two objections to that view.

The first objection is that the charges made are, at least in the majority of cases, not unreasonable and therefore ought not to be unlawful.  It is one thing to require a library to lend single copies of books free of charge, but quite another to apply the same rule to a loan of 50 or more vocal scores of a major choral work.

The second objection is that, for an authority which feels obliged to comply with the law, the ban on loan charges is a serious disincentive to the provision of an adequate music lending service and therefore operates against the interests of borrowers. There is, therefore, a strong case for amending the law to allow authorities to charge for lending sets of scores.

If this were done, it is likely that the variations in charges between different authorities would be considerably reduced.  Complete uniformity would be unattainable and unnecessary, but it would be possible to devise a standard system of charges to which authorities could be encouraged to conform.

Tony Lynes

September 2013

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Single-tier pension – but not for today’s pensioners?

At present, people under pension age pay national insurance contributions which entitle them to two kinds of state pension – flat-rate and earnings-related. Those whose employers provide an earnings-related pension scheme can be “contracted out” of the state earnings-related pension, their NI contributions and those of their employer being reduced accordingly. Under the Government’s latest proposals, the state will no longer be involved in providing earnings-related pensions, so there will be no need for contracting out: from 2017 (at the earliest), everybody under pension age will pay the full rate of NI contributions, resulting in a big increase in contribution income for the NI Fund.

At the same time, the flat-rate element of the state pension will be replaced by a “single-tier pension” at a rate high enough, for most people, to remove the need for a means-tested top-up – the pension credit. At present, the basic state pension is only £107.45 a week, while the minimum income provided by pension credit is £142.70. As a result, according to the recent Government white paper on the single-tier pension, nearly half (about 40 per cent) of all pensioners are eligible for the means-tested pension credit – but around a third of them do not claim, missing out on an average of £34 a week. The proposed level of the single-tier pension – £144 a week at today’s prices – would be slightly above the means-tested minimum, and it would be paid without a means test.

All this, however, applies only to those reaching pension age in 2017 or later. Today’s pensioners are completely excluded. They will be left with their £107.45 basic pension, with a means-tested addition for those who claim it – and the scandal of the non-claimers will continue for decades to come.

This doesn’t need to happen. As the White Paper says, “In a pay as you go state system, funding liabilities are passed from generation to generation: the National Insurance contributions of the working population provide for today’s state pensions for their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.” The logical way to spend the increased contribution income resulting from the ending of contracting out, therefore, would be to extend entitlement to the single-tier pension to existing pensioners. The answers to a number of parliamentary questions tabled by Harriet Harman, MP, show how the costs would work out.

The estimated cost of raising the state pensions of existing pensioners to the single-tier rate of £144 a week would be around £10bn a year. But a significant part of this total – estimated at between £1.94bn and £2.80bn for the year 2009-10 – is the amount of means-tested pension credit which pensioners are already entitled to but do not claim, the cost of which should clearly fall on the Exchequer, not on the National Insurance Fund. Deducting this from the £10bn total reduces the net cost to between £7.2bn and £8.1bn, of which about £6bn will be covered by the additional NI contributions resulting from the abolition of contracting out.

The probable net cost to the NI Fund of paying the single-tier pension to those already over pension age when it starts in 2017 would, therefore, be between £1bn and £2bn a year, reducing year by year as a new generation of workers reaches pension age. While this is not an insignificant sum, as the price to be paid for providing a minimum pension without a means test it is decidedly modest. And it doesn’t take into account the administrative savings from no longer having to means-test a diminishing group of elderly pensioners.

To argue for this does not imply that £144 a week is a reasonable minimum income for a single pensioner. Pensioners’ organisations will continue to campaign for a substantially higher target – but that campaign would unite the pensioners of today and tomorrow, making it much more difficult for governments to ignore.

Tony Lynes
February 2013

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Child benefit – a better way of sharing the cost

Figures given in reply to a Parliamentary Question on 15 November offer a much simpler and much fairer alternative to the Government’s widely criticised plan to withdraw child benefit from higher rate taxpayers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, presenting the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October, had said: “I simply cannot ask those earning just £15,000 or £30,000 a year to go on paying the child benefit of those earning £50,000 or £100,000 a year.” But the solution proposed by the Government is plainly unfair. Abolishing child benefit for the higher paid automatically places the whole burden of the cut on families with children. Childless taxpayers with similar incomes will not lose a penny.
Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, therefore asked the Chancellor what increase in the higher rate of tax would be needed to cover the cost of child benefit payable to higher rate taxpayers. The answer was that the cost in 2010-11 is £2.0 billion and the higher tax rate would have to rise by “around 2 per cent” to cover this cost. All those earning £44,000 or more would pay an extra 2p on every pound of additional income, but the burden would fall equally on those with and without children. And none of it would fall on those earning £15,000 or £30,000.
Moreover, the much criticised unfairness of the Government’s proposals to families with two medium-income earners would be avoided, as would the enormous administrative complications involved in discriminating between families just above and just below the higher-rate threshold.
It’s not too late for the Government to see sense, adopt the sane solution and retain the universality of child benefit.

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Adult education

In the House of Commons on 3rd June, Andrew Percy, Tory MP for Brigg & Goole, asked John Hayes (Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills): “Does he agree that the success and value of adult education is measured not only in terms of qualifications and certificates? Will he assure us that, as this Government move forward, the past cuts in adult education, for courses that do not lead to qualifications, will if possible be reversed, and that value will be placed on all layers of community adult education?”

John Hayes replied: “I welcome my hon. Friend to the House.  … he, like me, understands that learning has a value for its own sake.  I do not want to be unkind to my predecessors, because that would be slightly vulgar; nevertheless, it has to be said that the dull utilitarianism that permeated the previous regime’s thinking on this subject has now, thankfully, come to an end.”

We’ll remember those words if and when adult education is hit by the coming expenditure cuts.

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